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Turkey Says Too Soon To Call For Syria No-Fly Zone


Smoke rises after a Syrian government fighter jet fired missiles at Marat al-Numan, near the northern province of Idlib, on October 30.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says it is up to the UN Security Council to decide whether a no-fly zone should be imposed on Syria.

Speaking during a visit to Berlin on October 31, Erdogan called the conflict in Syria a "catastrophe" and asked for German help in dealing with the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing across the border into Turkey.

The United Nations and Arab League envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, met on October 31 in Beijing with the Chinese foreign minister, Jang Jiechi, in a bid to secure China's support for international efforts to halt the violence in Syria.

Earlier this week, Brahimi met in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

China and Russia have vetoed three Western and Arab League-backed draft resolutions at the UN Security Council that would have pressured the Syrian regime to halt the violence.

Brahimi's trip comes just days after the failure of a cease-fire he attempted to broker between government forces and rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

France, Russia Disagree On Assad

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on October 31 that France and Russia have failed to bridge their divide over Assad's role in any future Syrian transition government.

Fabius, speaking after a meeting of the French and Russian foreign and defense ministers in Paris, said, "There is a difference of assessment on the presence of Bashar al-Assad in a transition government."

Fabius also said that an institutional vacuum in Syria after Assad's departure would lead to chaos.

"We tell ourselves that we will not be able to find a solution in which Mr. Bashar al-Assad stays in power, there must be a change," he said, "but at the same time the institutions must stay in place because otherwise we risk having the same scenario as we did in Iraq where the regime change created such a big void that there were atrocities for many years."

But Lavrov countered by saying it was fantasy to think that Assad's ouster would resolve the Syrian crisis.

"In Geneva, we agreed by consensus to establish a transition body that will organize fair and free elections. This is the consensus," he said. "Fantasizing that overthrowing a ruler will solve the matter by itself is not productive, it's just a mirage."

Lavrov said Western states' insistence Assad resign perpetuated the "bloodbath" in Syria.

Lavrov also responded to a question about the Syrian government's use of Soviet and Russian-made warplanes against rebels by saying the Middle East region had "amassed plenty of weaponry, including Soviet, U.S., and French warplanes" and it was unfair to claim only Soviet-made weaponry was being used.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which gathers reports from a network of activists on the ground, said Syrian warplanes carried out several air strikes against opposition strongholds around Damascus and in the north on October 31.

At least six people were killed in a bomb blast near Damascus.

Activists say 35,000 people have been killed since the crisis began in March 2011.

With reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, Interfax, and ITAR-TASS
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